Local merchants emphasize support of Humphreys plans
May 24, 2006
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean merchants near Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek will step up their efforts to show support for the planned expansion of the post, the head of a local merchants’ group said Monday.
Kim Ki-ho, head of the Anjung-ri Merchants Association, said the group soon will schedule another demonstration like the one it held last Saturday near Camp Humphreys.
The Anjung-ri section of Pyeongtaek includes a bar and restaurant district just outside the post’s main gate, catering mainly to U.S. servicemembers.
Camp Humphreys is scheduled to expand and become the main U.S. military installation on the peninsula under an agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.
About 2,000 people, about half of them South Korean military veterans and the rest Anjung-ri residents, held a peaceful two-hour rally Saturday afternoon to voice support for the expansion plan and for the U.S. military’s continued presence on the peninsula, Kim said.
“We are going to have the demonstration again pretty soon,” said Kim. No date had been set as of Monday.
Speakers Saturday said a continued U.S. military presence was crucial to South Korea’s security, Kim said, and welcomed the plan to triple the size of Camp Humphreys. The U.S. military plans to move its forces now in Seoul and points north to Camp Humphreys by 2008.
The speakers also warned anti-U.S. protesters that they face a hostile reception in Anjung-ri from local merchants irate over loss of business resulting from the demonstrations, Kim said.
Recent anti-U.S. protests near Camp Humphreys, some of them violent, have resulted in U.S. servicemembers staying clear of Anjung-ri, Kim said. And on some occasions Camp Humphreys officials have put Anjung-ri off limits to servicemembers as a safety measure during scheduled protest rallies. That too has hurt business, Kim said.
Susan Barkley, a spokeswoman for the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys, had no immediate information on how many times Anjung-ri has been placed off-limits.
Kim said the merchants are ready for physical confrontations with anti-U.S. protesters should they select Anjung-ri as part of their march route for any future rallies in Daechu-ri.
Daechu-ri is a farming village that borders Camp Humphreys and has been the scene of recent, violent demonstrations by protesters opposing the Humphreys expansion plan and the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
During some rallies in Daechu-ri, many servicemembers have gone instead to the commercial district outside Osan Air Base in the Songtan area of Pyeongtaek, Kim said.
Kim on Monday repeated his earlier call for the anti-U.S. protest groups to confine their rallies to Seoul to such venues there as the presidential Blue House, the South Korean National Assembly and the Ministry of National Defense.
“If they want to go to Daechu-ri … through the Anjung-ri, we just keep out them,” Kim said.